Las Vegas is the magic capital of the world, but its magicians don’t represent the world’s diversity.
Reynold Alexander is out to change that with “Magia,” scheduled to run at The Clarion through July 20. The Puerto Rican magician, billed as “the greatest Latino illusionist of all time,” performed his first round of shows in English. But he is tire-kicking the idea of designated shows in Spanish or doing every show bilingually, translating himself onstage.
If he can draw out a new audience, it will have less to do with his magic and more because it feels a stronger kinship with him than with all the Strip’s whitebread guys.
Alexander’s otherwise familiar stage magic could be a lesson in why magicians from other countries tend to stay where they are and enjoy what they have.
Alexander arrives with at least some regional fame. He’s an established draw in San Juan and at the El Conquistador hotel in Fajardo. But take away that edge and drop him among the established competitors, and most of the act is too generic to threaten them.
The main nod to his cultural identity? Every time he mentions something about Puerto Rico, a pliable guy (Abel Amat) dressed like the ’50s star Cantinflas rushes out and throws down acrobatic dance moves to the Desi Arnaz rumba “Cuban Pete.”
Not sure if Latinos find that inspirational or offensive, but it’s at least different — and amusing, until the fourth or fifth time.
“Magia” also imports an agreeable set of low-key comedy magic of the “tricks gone wrong” school from Hansel (Kreutzberger), the opening act from Chile.
But on this night, the star attraction got off on the wrong foot, literally. The show opened with an oft-seen cabinet illusion that bisects a female assistant into nine pieces. But the real magic here is how one of her feet could still be in the cabinet when she walked out on two of them.
Alexander quickly got the show back on track with card manipulation and a confident charm which made us happy to spend 80 minutes with him. The illusions leaned toward the familiar and certainly weren’t overdressed with production frills, but often came with creative packaging.
The “dancing handkerchief” enlisted an old Victrola and an element of musical choice; for our show it was the ghost of Elvis bringing the hankie to life. The requisite embarrassment of an audience recruit put the civilian, and not a lovely assistant, into a box for the requisite sawing-in-half.
The big finale was a variation of the oft-seen “snowstorm” using sand instead, and the solemn reminder that “in no time we will be out of time.” Solid versions of the origami cabinet and the “backstage” view of a cabinet illusion were well-rendered for those new to a magic show themselves, or bringing children who will see these standards for the first time.
A fine, straight-ahead version of the “traveling knots” reinforced that, again, there’s nothing really wrong with this show beyond its gloomy lighting and lack of production frills. Alexander’s problem is more one of context and the quality of the competition.
One of the better illusions was a drawn-out piece of business in which an audience recruit helped tie up assistant Jessica Delgado, to make her “pass” through a small hole in a wooden box and end up inside.
Impressive … unless you saw Penn &Teller a few years ago, when what seemed to be a big part of the secret was deliberately exposed in a riff about whether you want to close your eyes and preserve the mystery, or open them and spoil the illusion.
Like I said, it’s the magic capital of the world. Even if it is run by white guys from the suburbs.
Contact reporter Mike Weatherford at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0288.